PHOENIX — Davey Johnson stood in front of a tarp in the visiting manager’s office, keeping his comments brief but thoughtful.
After a few minutes, he stepped away, hugged a few people and shook a few hands before taking a seat behind the desk.
He may have ended his career on a losing note, but the 70-year-old Johnson was perfectly at ease after a big-league career that spanned six decades.
A.J. Pollock beat out a run-scoring infield single in the eighth inning and the Arizona Diamondbacks sent the Washington manager into retirement with a loss by beating the Nationals 3-2 on Sunday.
“Time to go home,” Johnson said. “Put me out to pasture.”
Johnson already had his career commemorated during a ceremony in Washington and was recognized by the Diamondbacks before Sunday’s game, doffing his cap as he stepped out of the dugout.
After taking the lineup card to home plate for the final time, he spent the next nine innings as he always does, offering positive reinforcement to his players while pulling the strings to get one last win.
He ended up just short in the finale.
After losing the series’ first two games, the Diamondbacks scratched out a pair of runs off Ryan Mattheus (0-2) in the eighth inning to finish the season at .500 (81-81). Martin Prado had a run-scoring single in the inning and Pollock dove into first safely after hitting a comebacker that bounced off Mattheus.
David Hernandez (5-6) pitched a perfect eighth and Brad Ziegler closed out the ninth for his 13th save for the Diamondbacks, who played 1,538 innings this season to break the major league record set by the 1964 Yankees.
It was a disappointing end to Johnson’s career, but the Nationals still finished 11 games above.500 at 86-76 and are set up for success long after he’s gone.
“A good manager builds confidence in his players and we benefited from that because he never wavered, no matter how good or bad you were doing,” Nationals right-hander Tyler Clippard said. “He always put you out there and expected you to succeed and, for the most part, I think we did.”
Johnson leaves with quite a legacy built over 17 years as a manager and 13 as a player.
He won a World Series with the Mets in 1986 and joined Billy Martin as the only managers to take four teams to the postseason when he led the Nationals to the playoffs last season while earning his second manager of the year award at 69. He also went to the postseason with Cincinnati and Baltimore.
Johnson was a four-time All-Star as a player, earned three Gold Gloves and won a pair of World Series rings with the Orioles in 1966 and 1970.
He goes out on a losing note, capping a season of unfulfilled expectations for Washington.
The Nationals won the NL East and had the best record in baseball last season, so the bar was set high, particularly with a loaded lineup like theirs.
Washington dropped below .500 after a rough stretch around the All-Star break before making a September run, but couldn’t catch the surging Atlanta Braves.
Johnson finishes his career 1,372-1,071.
“I’m not dropping off the face of the earth,” said Johnson, who will serve as an adviser for the Nationals. “I’ll still be around. I might even see you guys.”
The Diamondbacks won the NL West in 2011 and were expected to make another run after boosting payroll following a postseason-less 2012.
Arizona looked like a playoff team the first half of the season, leading the division most of the way, but faded down the stretch, drifting well behind the Los Angeles Dodgers after the All-Star break and never able to make up the ground.
The Diamondbacks at least ended on a good note.
Arizona scored in the first inning on a sacrifice fly by Paul Goldschmidt after pitcher Tanner Roark had a throwing error on a sacrifice bunt.
Zach Walters hit an RBI triple after Arizona third baseman Martin Prado’s throwing error in the sixth inning and Steve Lombardozzi put Washington up 2-1 with a run-scoring single.
Roark allowed a run on three hits in seven innings.
The Diamondbacks, like they have all season, never gave up, though, putting together a late rally that prevented their first losing season since 2010.
“We as a team expected to be still paying right now,” Diamondbacks shortstop Willie Bloomquist said. “I think that is where expectations need to stay. As a whole this year it has been disappointing even though we ended on a high note.”
Notes: Washington had won its previous four season finales. … Johnson was 224-183 in three seasons with the Nationals. … Goldschmidt had a single in the eighth inning to extend his hitting streak to 19 games. He also joined Mel Ott as the only NL players 25 under to hit .300 with 35 homers, 100 RBIs and 100 runs in a season. … Members of the Phoenix Coyotes watched the game from the pool deck in right field.
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